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Why does my cat lick me?

Why does my cat lick me?

It’s not just because she likes the taste of your skin (although there is some truth to that). Cats use their tongues to express affection, recognize their family members, and leave their scent on you and your belongings. It's your cat's way of marking you as theirs. 

Let's dig deeper into this quirky feline behavior, along with some ways to curb it if it bothers you or if your cat licks people besides you.

 

Should I let my cat lick me?

Yes, it’s okay for a cat to lick its owner—in fact, it’s considered a sign of affection. But it’s not okay for you to lick your cat (as tempting as that may be)

 

Is it okay for a cat to lick its owner? 

Yes, but with a major caveat. For starters, cats groom themselves every day using their tongues, so if they decide to share that tongue with you—whether during a face-licking session or otherwise—it’s just another way of showing affection. 

Some cats also engage in what's known as allorubbing, which is basically when they rub against something (or someone) with their cheek and forepaws before licking whatever body part is closest. So if your cat likes to do that while you're lounging around, it's probably fine. 

Here's the major caveat: Cats have a host of parasites that can be passed on through their saliva, and many of them aren’t fazed by human immune systems. Roundworms and hookworms are two examples. If you suspect your cat is hosting either one of these parasites, don’t let your pet lick you under any circumstances. 

 

When should I let my cat lick me? 

Your cat will likely try to lick you no matter what time of day it is—after all, even though grooming isn't necessary for felines like it is for dogs, most cats still do some kind of self-grooming throughout the day. This means you'll probably get licked at some point whether you want to be licked or not. 

And why would you want to avoid being licked by your furry friend? Well…

 

Why does my cat lick me, then bite me, then lick me?

At some point, it's bound to happen. Your cat will slowly ease up beside you as you’re sitting on your couch, and then he'll pounce. As he leans in for a friendly lick, all of a sudden his fangs shoot out and sink into your hand. And then, just as quickly as it happened, he's off playing with something else. What's going on?

It all comes back to why your cat is licking you in the first place.

 

Why do cats want to lick you? 

You've asked yourself that question plenty of times before—and now you know what causes that funny behavior! 

Here are five reasons why cats bite or lick humans:

 

  • Because she wants to play. Licking is really a social bonding activity among felines. Cats lick their littermates, who are also their first play partners. Over time, the cat you lick is the cat whose tail you kick in a game of chase.
  • Because he's grooming you. Cats spend an astonishing amount of time grooming themselves, but they also groom each other. However, cats only groom other members of their colony. If you're getting groomed, therefore, you're definitely in the family.
  • Because she's stressed. Licking can be a sign of stress. Cats may show anxiety through obsessive behaviors, and excessive licking can be one of those. 
  • Because he's a natural hunter. If your cat is growing aggressive in his play with you, it could be that his natural hunting instincts have emerged, and he considers you prey. When this behavior happens, it's a good idea to stop all play until your pet calms down.
  • Because your cat loves you. The number one reason your cat wants to lick or nibble you is simple — your pet loves you.
  • Why does my cat lick me when I pet him?

Excessive grooming can be a sign of affection, but it’s usually a way for your kitty to say "Hey, I want to talk."

Cats are more vocal than dogs, and when they want to communicate, they often take a direct approach: licking you. This can mean many things, from indicating your cat wants something (such as food or access outside) to not liking what you just did (perhaps you moved his favorite toy or held him too tightly). 

Maybe your cat even thinks he’s grooming you, and in doing so, he's bonding with you.

 

Why does my cat gently lick me?

You've probably observed your cat delicately licking his paws, tail, and yes, even you. 

 

Why do cats lick you like that? 

It's a seemingly weird behavior to most of us humans; however, it serves many purposes for them. Here's a brief overview of how cats show affection:

Purring, chirping, or mewing can all be signs that your cat feels safe and secure in your companionship. Kneading, headbutting, or generally getting close to you are also clues that your cat is crazy about you. 

 

Should you let your cat lick you?

That question isn’t exactly easy to answer, as even pet experts disagree on whether or not letting your cat lick you is a good idea. Again, it goes back to why.

 

Why do cats lick people?

There are lots of theories surrounding why cats lick people, including that they see our faces as a place to clean themselves and pick up taste information about us through their own saliva. 

Also, by mimicking grooming behavior with human beings, cats may be treating their owners as if they were kittens who need bathing. In addition to these theories, some people believe that pets offer affectionate licks as a way of showing appreciation for food or rewards for training.

As long as your cat doesn't think you're his prey, it's okay to let him lick you.

Unless the animal shows signs of distress or aggression, licking is probably just a way to bond with you. Your pet is simply indicating that she thinks of you as another cat — and really, could there be any higher honor?